WOMAS AND BLACK-HEADED PYTHONS
GENUS ASPIDITES PETERS 1876
Aspidites is a genus of large terrestrial Pythons endemic to
continental Australia. These pythons are readily distinguished from all
other Australian species by the absence of pits on the labial or rostral
scales. Other diagnostic traits are the absence of teeth on the premaxilla
and enlarged symmetrical shields on the top of the head. Prior to now,
most authorities have divided the genus into two well-defined species.
These are the Black-headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus)
and the Woma (A. ramsayi).
The former is separated from the latter by its distinct glossy black
head. At best the latter only has black markings on the head. Few authors
recognize subspecies or races. Those that have subdivided the above species
into races or regional variants, include Barker and Barker (1994a) and
Wells and Wellington (1985a). The former recognized different races without
naming them, while the latter recognized A. collaris as described by Longman
in 1913 (see below). Taxonomy of this genus has gained greater interest
in recent years with the introduction of more formalized reptile-keeper
licensing systems in most Australian states combined with the high prices
of specimens traded. Authorities in some states have taken a strong stand
against hybridization of races of snakes, a view shared by a substantial
number of private keepers.
Noting that distinct differences between races of Aspidites are well
known and acknowledged and that for many years a substantial number of
herpetologists have recognized different races as being at least different
subspecies, it is somewhat surprising that up until now no one has put
names to these different races. Black-headed Pythons
and Womas are known to occur sympatrically in parts of Western Australia,
with this author catching both species on the western edge of the Great
Sandy Desert, north of Port Hedland, WA. (refer to photos published in
There is presently no evidence of cross-breeding between the two species
either in the wild or captivity. Smith (1981) also found similar sympatry
between both species in Western Australia. Worrell (1963) recorded sympatry
between both species in the Northern Territory. To date no similar sympatry
has been recorded in Queensland. That sympatry occurs between the two species
of Aspidites is not altogether surprising as their habitat preferences
are somewhat generalist, with the snakes being found in a variety of habitat,
soil and vegetation types. Biological information about Aspidites
is provided by Cogger (1996), Barker and Barker (1994a), Hoser (1981, 1989),
Sonneman (1999) Storr, Smith and Johnstone (1986), Worrell (1970) and others.
Excellent photos of Aspidites are provided by the authors named
immediately above. Photos of habitats inhabited by Aspidites are
provided by a number of authors including Hoser (1989) and Barker and Barker
(1994a). Barker and Barker (1994a) provide an excellent bibliography of
cited references on Aspidites and pythons in general including cases
of captive breeding, breeding data and other useful material.
Type material for all species listed below has not necessarily been
inspected by this author, however this author has inspected a substantial
number of specimens including from the type localities given.
SPECIES AND SUBSPECIES OF ASPIDITES NOW
Aspidites melanocephalus (Krefft, 1864)
Aspidites melanocephalus adelynensis subsp. nov. (this paper)
Aspidites melanocephalus davieii subsp. nov. (this paper)
Aspidites ramsayi (Macleay, 1882) Aspidites ramsayi panoptes
subsp. nov. (this paper)
Aspidites ramsayi richardjonesii subp. nov. (this paper)
Total of 2 species comprising six subspecies.
The above was from the paper - A revision of the Australiasian Pythons.
(Originally published in Ophidia Review 1(1) in "Autumn" 2000 - (Publication date: October 2000), pp. 7-27).
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